by Lynn on September 26, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

On The Rocks

 At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto. Written and conceived by Louise Pitre. Directed by Jen Shuber. Original songs by Louise Pitre and W. Joseph Matheson. Musical direction and pianist, Diane Leah. Set by Robin Fisher. Lighting by Lesley Wilkinson.  Starring Louise Pitre.

Plays at Theatre Passe Muraille until September 28, with an added performance on Sept. 29 because of popular demand.

Andy McKim, the courtly, inventive Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille, took a chance and opened his 2013-14 season tonight (Sept. 25) with the first play of a new playwright with a familiar name. The play is On the Rocks. The writer is Louise Pitre, performing star of such musicals as Les Misérables, Mamma Mia! A Year With Frog and Toad, Piaf and Toxic Avenger.

 McKim’s challenge was to create a show for Theatre Passe Muraille that she would never get a chance to do anywhere else. What Pitre did was write a very personal story about her childhood in Quebec and her passion for singing that led her to perform across the country and on Broadway. As if this wasn’t hard enough she also wrote the music and lyrics, along with her husband W. Joseph Matheson, to nine original songs for the show.

Pitre is a feisty, impish, passionate performer. And while a small part of her show seems like a “and then I went into this or that show”, it’s less about that and more about the personal journey she’s taken. Her early exhibitionist was evident when she wanted to go topless because her brother and father did and her mother said that wasn’t proper. She was seven-years-old. She always sang, either with her sister or by herself. While singing was easy, so was unerringly picking the wrong men. She says that for years she had a warped sense of needing approval from men. A failed marriage, guilt, and finally happiness with her second husband, Joe, has now filled her life with joy.

The songs are a collection of tuneful offerings that talk about believing in yourself. (“If I Can See It”), The importance and effect of dreaming (“The Power of Dreams”), and a Piaf-like song,( “Say Goodbye”).

The three songs that Pitre wrote herself talk about her huge love for her husband (“I Just Wanted to Say.”); a heartbreaking song to her father that she lost to Alzheimer’s Disease (“Please Say My Name Out Loud”), and an equally moving song to her mother (“Please, Please, Please”) show the range and scope of Pitre’s creativity.

Director Jen Shuber keeps the pace moving with minimum intrusion. There is subtlety there and Diane Leah offers wonderful accompaniment at the piano. Both accompanist and star do not seem as if they are microphoned and that’s wonderful. Is they are, the enhancement is minimal and that wonderful too.

Pitre is a stylish writer with a fine sense of comedy, impeccable timing as a performer and a consummate musician when she sings. Her heart and soul goes into her work and she takes her willing audience along for this moving, funny  journey in On the Rocks.

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1 Guy Brockmann October 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm

That should make me feel bad but for some reason it doesn’t. Instead it makes my dick hard. Go figure.